Category:Wine news

Winebits 98: All about the wine business

? So you want open a winery? This primer, from the Bergman Euro-National wine real estate brokerage, is as good as anything I have ever seen. The most important point? Start with lots and lots and lots of money, since an acre of quality California land begins at around $100,000 and it will cost you $6,000 an acre to run the vineyard.

? Wine industry salaries: And you ?ll have to count on paying your employees more, according to a survey from the magazine Wine Business Monthly. Winemaker salaries increased 3.5 percent and vice presidents of sales positions were up 6.3 percent over the past year ? despite the recession. Overall salaries increased by 4.1 percent in 2009.

? Working for a winery: Want to know what it ?s like? Then check out the Share the Crush Fantasy blog, written by Folie a Deux intern Lori Carter. She writes about her experiences working during harvest and grape crushing, which is not, in any way, shape or form, fun. Or, as Lori writes about one of her tasks: ?I hook up the intake hose to a bin with a screen to catch skins and seeds and an outtake hose to an empty tank. From here, I drain the tank through the screen and send the juice it to the empty tank. Did I forget to mention that we are dealing with 1000 gallons of juice running through the filter

Wine discounts, wine prices and wine deals

Retailers are increasing discounts to move merchandise. The Wine Curmudgeon has spent quite a bit of the past couple of weekends shopping for wine. I can ?t guarantee that what I saw in Dallas is the same thing that you ?ll see where you live, but I did see what look like to be emerging trends nationwide:

? Smaller wine departments, especially in stores like Cost Plus World Market that expanded their wine departments during the boom and now are stuck with too much floor space for a product that isn ?t selling. My local Cost Plus looks like it has reduced its wine inventory by 20 percent.

? More house labels and private labels. I visited eight or 10 stores, and the thing that struck me in all of them were lots of labels I had never seen before. These are wines that the retailers carry exclusively, which means they carry higher margins than national brands and usually sell for a little less than similar national brands.

? The beginning of deep discounting, as opposed to the ordinary discounting that has been going on for most of this year. I bought six bottles of quality wine at Kroger, including one that usually costs around $15, for $39.95. Which works out to $6.66 a bottle, and a Rex Goliath chardonnay was just $4. Kroger had not only marked the wines down, but was offering 20 percent off any six bottles. This is exceptionally notable in Dallas since our wine prices tend to be a bit higher than elsewhere.

? Lots of back vintages, especially for well-known national brands. There were 2006 and 2007 white wines and 2004 and 2005 reds for sale, vintages that should have sold out at least a year ago. Retailers will need to increase discounts to get rid of these back vintages to make room for the new vintages on store shelves, since the alternative is throwing them out.

The photo is from Wong Mei Teng of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license.

Winebits 97: Grocery store wine, consumer trends, solar panels

? Wine Magazine honors Aldi: Decanter, the British Wine Magazine that is best known for keeping tabs on high-end Burgundy and Bordeaux and its excellent news coverage, has acknowledged the recession. Its annual retailer awards included a ?Commendation ? to Aldi, a German chain that is making inroads into the United States. It honored Aldi ?for leading the way with good-quality cheaper wine. ? This is nothing short of amazing. Decanter isn ?t as over-the-top as most of the U.S. Wine Magazines, but it still doesn ?t spend all that much time on cheap wine. We ?re getting several Aldi ?s in Dallas, including one not that far from me. Apparently, they do it with private label wines, so it will be worth checking out.

? Wine drinkers going from ?frills to basics: ? Or so said several top wine industry analysts at a wine industry symposium. One said that the industry is not out of the woods yet, and that unemployment should rise through 2009. A number cruncher from Nielsen told the group that consumers are desperately seeking value, resulting in the "re-prioritization of discretionary vs necessity," and a switch "from frills and luxuries to basics and value." In other words, all that stuff the Wine Curmudgeon has been saying for years. How come I ?m not a highly-paid consultant?

? Green-thinking thieves: A Napa Valley winery has become the latest victim of criminals stealing expensive solar panels. The theft of about 25 panels at a winery that asked that is name not be released, was the 17th in the region since the beginning 2008. The solar panels in the case were worth $30,000. Previous thefts were worth as much as $50,000. This leaves two questions: How did they get the panels off without breaking them and who fences solar panels?

Winebits 96: Wine bloggers, wine sales, Randall Grahm

? Top 7 bloggers: A study notes the most popular bloggers among the wine community, most of whom really aren ?t bloggers. Eric Asimov is the wine columnist for the New York Times (ranked first), Eric Orange ?s Local Wine Events (ranked second) is a calendar listing and Jancis Robinson (tied for fourth) has been the leading wine writer in Great Britain for more than a decade. Only two true blogs ? Vinography and Dr. Vino ? made the top 7. I suppose that the Mainstream Marketing types will, one day, figure out this Internet thing.

? Wine sales rise in 2008: For what that ?s worth, of course. Nothing like releasing a survey that is outdated before it is even released. Still, a Connecticut consultancy says wine sales, as measured by the number of cases sold, increased by .9 percent in 2008. Most of the experts to see case sales decline this year, which would be the first annual decrease since the early 1990s. Two items worth noting in this study: Imported wines dropped 1.8 percent, while domestics rose 1.9 percent, and it said that Millennials ?(age 21 to 30) are changing perceptions of wine. This generation is not as sophisticated about wine as preceding generations and is willing to experiment with wines at lower price points. ? Shocking news, huh, that consumers are willing to buy cheap wine?

? ?Been Doon So Long ?: Winemaker and provocateur Randall Grahm ?s book will soon be published. I may even write a review in time for holiday gift giving. The book is a collection of bits, pieces and oddities that have appeared in Grahm ?s various newsletters over the years, including his famous ?A Clockwork Orange Muscat. ?

Winebits 95: The High-end wine is in trouble roundup

? High-end wineries face ?fundamental change ?: Here ?s the view from the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa,, in the heart of California ?s $20 and up wine country: ?Inventories at high-end wineries are building. Wine club memberships are being canceled as consumers lose their jobs or cut back expenses. ? Grape growers are watching prices plunge 30 or even 40 percent compared to last year's record prices. Sonoma pinot noir that sold for $2,800 a ton last year might today sell for $1,800, according to brokers. ? And an increasing number of wineries and vineyards are going on the block. ?

? It must be bad if Forbes says so: The high finance magazine says ?The slumping economy has left distributors scrambling to sell high-end bottles at cut-rate prices–but you need to click quickly. ? The Wine Curmudgeon isn ?t sure there is much advice there for those of us who are looking for $15 wine marked down to $8, but if you need a bottle of $250 2003 Chateau de Valandraud. it ?s apparently available for $80.

? Wine auction receipts slump: The Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction raised $500,000 this year, about two-thirds of last year's take of $702,500. Last year, the auction and a companion event combined for $1.57 million for Sonoma County charities; this year, the total was about $600,000. ?It's a difficult climate to do fundraising events, ? said one of the organizers.

Winebits 94: Wine glut, wine contests, new mountain name

? More grapes means cheap wine is coming: The great Dan Berger explains how the grape glut benefits consumers, and says bargain are on the way: ?There is so much wine in the U.S. pipeline today that all prices are depressed, from $6 wines in 5-liter boxes to $100 Napa cabernets. ? He writes that wine is just sitting around, waiting for buyers. Case in point: 2006 Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc, which should have been sold out two years ago, on sale at a deeply discounted price. And, he says, ?The 2007 should have been sold out more than a year ago, and the 2008 should be nearly gone. ? So if the 2006 is still around, there is way more wine available than there should be.

? Wine judges don ?t know much: Or says a study in the Journal of Wine Economics, where retired Cal State Humboldt professor Robert Hodgson said he looked at the results for more than 4,000 wines entered in 13 U.S. competitions in 2003 and found little consistency in what wines won gold medals. The study said that of almost 2,500 wines that were entered in more than three competitions, 47 percent won a gold medal in at least one contest. But 98 percent of those gold medal winners were regarded as just above average or below in at least one of the other competitions.

? Renaming Black Mountain: And the man who wants to do it is Jess Jackson, through his company Jackson Family Enterprises (which we know as the company that includes Kendall Jackson). The company has petitioned to change the name of 3,128-foot Black Mountain to Alexander Mountain, a move that would bolster the vintner's attempt to create a special grape-growing designation of the same name on his property. He lives near the mountain on a reported 5,400 acres.

Winebits 93: $1 million wine book, wine sales, wine competitions

? Seven figures to buy a wine book?  British publisher Kraken Opus plans to release a book on wine that will retail for a whopping 640,000, the equivalent of US$1.04 million. The 850-page book, titled The Wine Opus, will feature a list of the 100 best wineries in the world. This is a joke, isn ?t it? Apparently not. Twenty-five of the 100-copy print run have already been sold.

? Wine sales down: Diageo, one of the world ?s big three drinks companies, says wine sales declined seven percent in fiscal 2009, which ended June 30. Doesn ?t get much worse than that, does it? Said one top official: "[I]n the U.S. you’re seeing more pronounced down trading in the wine environment…top end restaurant in major cities – say wine that was over $60 a bottle has significantly come down. People are going for far more affordable wines." Why does he make this sound like like it ?s a bad thing?

? Judging wine competitions: Jim Clarke, a New York City wine expert, discusses the ins and outs of judging a wine competition (one of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s most interesting tasks). His take: ?Generally, the judges work these things out, but remember that the gold- or silver-medal sticker on the side of a bottle only tells you that the wine performed well on that day, in the competition environment, for a panel of experts. ? Sound advice indeed.